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Gujarat ranks poor 12th of 21 states in gender vulnerability: "Failure" to protect women from sexual violence

By Our Representative
Even as Gujarat goes to polls, a high-profile NGO Plan India’s new Gender Vulnerability Index (GVI) has found that the model state is behind 11 out of 21 major Indian states. On a scale of 1, Gujarat GVI is 0.543. The best GVI is that of Kerala (0.634), and worst that of Bihar (0.41).
Associated with Plan International, a UK-based NGO, while the Plan India’s 100-page report does not say why Gujarat, despite being a “developed state”, ranks No 12th among 21 major states, the data do suggest that this is mainly because of its lag in the social sector, on one hand, and providing “protection and safety of girls and women”, on the other.
Providing four different dimensions to calculate the overall GVI, protection, education, health, poverty, the report says, the goals is to “identify broadly the challenges which the respective states face” on the basis of “the priorities established” by each of them, and whether these have led to “balanced and inclusive development”.
Thus, in the poverty dimension of GVI, Gujarat’s ranking is quite good, fifth out of 21 major states. In fact, it is behind just four states – Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra. But when it comes to two main social indicators, education and health, Gujarat is behind 10 and 11 states, ranking 11th and 12th respectively.
It is the protection dimension which appears to have pulled down Gujarat’s overall ranking. In the protection dimension, which includes sex discrimination and violence, Gujarat’s overall GVI (0.561), and is better than only five states out of 21 – Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh.
Plan India recognizes that this dimension of GVI is important because “abuse and the threat of violence are an insult to one’s personal welfare and humanity”, and “these behaviours are not always predicted by a household’s socioeconomic identity and are not likely to end anytime soon.”
Calling it at the heart of its GVI analysis, Plan India says, discrimination in India “starts at the womb and persists throughout her life”, adding, “Girls and women, for every year of their lives, are exposed to specific forms of gender based discrimination which disempowers them and widens the gender divide.”
It adds, “Violence, abuse, neglect are the most brutal suppressions of freedom. Women are vulnerable even before their birth and formative years to female feticide and infanticide. As they grow older, they are at risk of human trafficking, physical and sexual abuse and neglect, and this continues in the form of marital and domestic abuse, dowry harassment and desertion.”
Pointing out that in India, “while the male child is an investment, the girl child is a burden”, the report says, this is proved by the fact that “today, more than 1 out of 4 girls are married before the age of 18, and 1 out of 5 boys are married before the age of 21.”
“Although the incidence of child marriage has fallen significantly in the last two decades, it is still persistent and intergenerational because of the strong social stigma surrounding unmarried girls, preservation of her chastity and as means of protection from sexual violence”, the report says.
It adds, “Crimes against women and children, for instance, reveal how the justice system responds to current crises. Protection is one of the most complex features and in order to allow for children and women to flourish, improvements in their personal wellbeing by protecting their rights is necessary.”

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